The 5 Best Pillow Speakers

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Sangean PS-300 Pillow Speaker

My partner and I have very different preferences when it comes to music in bed. I usually prefer silence, but sometimes enjoy listening to some relaxing music or white noise.

She, on the other hand, just can’t fall sleep without the hypnotic chat of her favorite Spanish radio program.

Neither of us wants to listen to the other’s choice, and we prefer not to wear headphones unless we’re trying to block out noise from neighbors.

The solution? Little pillow speakers that allow us to listen to our chosen music or radio in private. We’ve tested a good range over the years, and I’ll be talking about the best we’ve found in this article.

Please note that all the photos are my own, and the exact pillow speakers I bought and used. However, the manufacturers may make changes to the design in the future.

Below, you can see three of the padded pillow speakers I tested before writing this review so you can compare their sizes. Top is the Avantree Slumber. Bottom left is the Sangean PS-300. Bottom right is the Drowsie.

photo of three pillow speakers

Here’s another one that shows how their size and design compares. Note how the Drowsie (middle) doesn’t have any cables. More on that below!

three pillow speakers arranged in size order: C. Crane Soft Speaker 3k, Drowsie, Avantree Slumber

1. Avantree Slumber

The best pillow speaker overall, with multiple audio input options and sleep timers

Avantree Slumber pillow speaker

The Avantree Slumber is the latest pillow speaker I’ve tried, and the first one that impressed me with the range of features it offers; pillow speakers tend to be quite simple devices, as you’ll see later in this article.

The fact that there are three audio input options is the main reason it took top spot in my list. You can connect via Bluetooth, plug the 3.5mm cable directly into your phone’s audio jack, or upload your own mp3 tracks onto the 4gb memory card.

The next four pillow speakers only have one audio input option each. There are definitely reasons to consider those if their input method works for you. However, I personally prefer the flexibility the Avantree Slumber offers.

The main section is larger than the others too, with a speaker at either end of the padded pillow to provide stereo sound. They say you can rest your head directly over it, or slip it inside your pillow case. However, I found the speaker quality and volume are good enough that you can put it under your pillow and still hear it.

The Avantree Slumber has a convenient control unit which lets you adjust the volume, EQ (just toggles between music or spoken word), track choice, and auto-off timers. The inclusion of sleep timers is great as you don’t need to faff about with the controls or your own device if you prefer just 15-30 minutes of audio before falling asleep.

Avantree Slumber control unit

It comes with some white noise and nature sounds preloaded onto the memory card. They have some nice rain and music sounds, but there’s a very obvious fade out and restart of the loops after a couple of minutes, so I would upload your own if you enjoy nature sounds.

On balance, while small pillow speakers are unlikely to blow you away with their audio quality or bass compared to high-end headphones, the Avantree Slumber is the best of the bunch and works really well for quiet, comfortable and private bedtime listening.

At the time of writing it costs $59.99 in the US, and £49.99 in the UK. This makes it the most expensive of the pillow speakers I’ll be covering, so there are lower cost options coming up.

2. Sangean Pillow Speaker PS-300

A compact pillow speaker with in-line volume control

Sangean PS-300 Pillow Speaker

The Sangean PS-300 pillow speaker is a versatile little pillow speaker. It consists of one small and unobtrusive speaker and also has an in-line volume control.

It’s not designed to be placed directly under your ear as it has no padding or material casing. So the options are to place it under your pillow, inside your pillowcase, or next to your ear on the pillow or mattress.

It also has an additional amplifier which boosts the volume. It requires one AAA battery to work, but you can use it without the amplifier if you want to. I find the boosted volume is really useful for podcasts, radio and audiobooks.

However, if you listen to music that has a lot of bass, the sound does seem to distort if you turn the Amp on and the volume up. That said, it’s still a great option if you listen to spoken word or relaxing music.

I can hear both speaking and music easily when I position it under a thin or medium thickness pillow. But if you have a dense pillow and/or struggle with your hearing, then you might find you need to put the speaker on top of your pillow instead.

The cable is 47 inches long, which should be more than long enough to reach a nightstand, even if it’s far from the bed. However, the only way to connect it to your audio device is with the 3.5mm pin, which not all devices are compatible with.

At just under $30 in the US and £28 in the UK at the time of writing, I think the price is fairly reasonable for a pillow speaker.

See it in action in my full Sangean pillow speaker review.

3. Drowsie

Connect to a flat and padded speaker via Bluetooth

Drowsie pillow speaker

The Drowsie pillow speaker connects via Bluetooth, which gets around the problem of audio devices that can’t connect to a 3.5mm pin.

Unlike all the others in this article, there are no external wires at all, which some people may find more convenient and perhaps safer when we’re talking about having a device right next to your head while you sleep.

Unlike the Avantree Slumber, which still needs to be plugged into a wall socket even when you connect via Bluetooth (don’t ask me why), the Drowsie can be placed anywhere you like. It takes around two hours to charge, and lasts ten hours, which is long enough for a night or two.

The pillow speaker itself is a short, padded rectangle shape, with three speakers housed inside. The audio quality is decent (for a pillow speaker) and you can hear both spoken word and music clearly. I found the volume is loud enough to hear it if you place it under your pillow, but the soft padding also means you can have it on top of your pillow next to your ear if you prefer.

The main issue is around cleaning. You can’t remove the internal components, so the fabric needs to be spot cleaned, which is somewhat inconvenient. If it weren’t for this point, I would have put it at number 2.

On balance though, the Drowsie is comfortable to use, has convenient one or two hour sleep timers, and flexible placement options. The audio quality is good enough for bedtime use, despite lacking some bass, which is an issue all the pillow speakers have.

It currently costs $49.99 in the US and $89 in Australia, which is where the company is from.

Find out more and see it in action in my full Drowsie review.

4. C. Crane Soft Speaker 3k

Soft casing and a volume boosting Amp

C.Crane Soft Speaker 3

The C. Crane Soft Speaker 3 is one for those who want the music right next to their ear, but without needing headphones.

The manufacturer has clearly thought about what people might need in a pillow speaker, and tried to make it work while keeping the cost reasonable.

I like that it has a removable soft casing for the speaker to hide inside. It means you don’t have to bury the speaker under your pillow as you do with some others; you can place it under or next to your ear, which is great if you have a thick pillow or hearing difficulties.

The audio quality is surprisingly good for such a diminutive pillow speaker. You obviously won’t be showing it off at a party, but voice comes through crisp and clear, making it a good choice for those who enjoy falling asleep to podcasts, radio, or guided meditations.

It has a useful control unit built into the very long cable (78 inches long). The control unit lets you adjust the volume and select the amplifier feature, which boosts the volume even more.

There are convenient sleep timers of one, four or eight hours, which is great for saving the battery or if you just want music for the start of the night. And you can switch between voice or music modes, depending on what you’re listening to.

My main criticism is that you need two AAA batteries if you want to use the amplifier. You can ignore that though, and just play it on normal volumes without the batteries.

It currently costs $29.99 in the US, and significantly more in Canada, but isn’t available in the UK.

Find out more in my C.Crane pillow speaker review.

5. C.Crane Soft Speaker 2

A simpler version of the Soft Speaker with in-line volume control

c crane soft speaker 2

For the final pillow speaker, it’s another in the comfy C. Crane series. This time it’s the Soft Speaker version 2, which was my top pick of the C.Crane pillow speakers until version 3 came along.

The main differences are that the casing is smaller, so there’s a little less padding under your ear. And there’s no amplifier control box, so it’s missing the few extra features that the version 3 offers.

What it does have though is a very simple design. So it’s perhaps better if you just want to plug your pillow speaker into your audio device (3.5mm pin again) and never have to worry about batteries or finding the right button on the control unit.

It has a simple slider in-line volume control on the cable. That means you can easily change the volume in the night without opening your eyes and blinding yourself when your smartphone screen fires up.

The cable is the same length as version 3, at a whopping 78 inches long. This is useful if you have a radio on a desk or shelf; otherwise, it’s a lot of cable you’ll want to tie up neatly.

The sound quality is good enough to listen to people talking or soft music. But it’s definitely quieter than the C.Crane version 3, the Sangean, Drowsie, and Avantree Slumber.

I don’t think it’s ideal for thicker pillows because of the low volume output, and is best used directly under your ear. If you use a thin or medium sized pillow and your hearing is good, you should be able to pop it under your pillow and hear your audio though.

The price is pretty good too, at $24.99 on Amazon in the US usually.